WEMA and COVID-19

The Pandemic has created many challenges for us all. Just juggling the email volume alone is enough to struggle with, let alone have the phone ring or answer direct questions that come through the EOC from County Administrators and County Board members. There is no doubt that there are areas of improvement needed at all levels of the response, but there is also no doubt that there are many areas of strength at all levels as well. We tend to dwell on the negative in times like this because its the negative that slows us down, causes more work and causes confusion. I would remind everyone at all levels, we will fix the negatives that we can today, begin working on the more complex ones over time and be better in the end as a whole. Focus on whats positive when you find yourself drowning in the negative.

About two weeks ago, my best friend, Chuck (Sarge) Nye, passed away from a bout with cancer. Chuck’s death occurred just short of 1 year since his wife’s passing in May of 2019. Chuck’s passing has left a hole in my day as it wasn’t unusual for us to talk daily. Chuck was retired Army. He was the Assistant Fire Chief for the Cobb Volunteer Fire Department, a member of Cobb EMR Service and Iowa County Technical Rescue Team. He was Vice President of the Iowa County Emergency Services Association and President of MABAS Division 124 when he passed. He actively Volunteered for Iowa County Emergency Management, filling the role as evaluator and/or Safety Officer during exercises. He was there whenever I needed him. Needless to say, Chuck’s passing will leave a hole in the hearts of many. I will especially miss our discussions following an incident. The most important lesson Chuck gave me was that meeting a problem head on shouldn’t necessarily involve a crash. He had a way of making his point without confrontation. It took me a while to understand that about Chuck, but once I did, I appreciated his input even more.

The May 14 WEMA Board meeting was cancelled due to the Supreme Court ruling overturning the Safer At Home extension the evening before. I will be rescheduling for a day and time in early June. The Board will be discussing the WEMA Conference as being virtual, COVID-19 Response issues and WEMA’s role during this response.

In regard to WEMA’s role in this response, The WEMA Board or just myself have been involved in discussions on various topics with State Legislative Liaisons on various funding issues. There has been direct communications with WEMA Administrator Darrell Williams on different matters and input from the WEMA Board on the endorsement to the USDA for purchasing excess commodities from the farming community. The WEMA Board or myself actively participated in the PPE distribution process working with WEM. WEMA has been working on behalf of its members behind the scenes. Perhaps I could be more aggressive in informing members of what we are doing but my theory has been to keep the emails from WEMA to a minimum and give a thorough update on occasion.

Additionally, through all of this, Bobbi Hicken and myself have been working through the process of making the WEMA website more integral to the operation of WEMA. We have been working to implement the ability to pay for association dues and conference registration on the site. I can’t say that process hasn’t had it’s interruptions with everything that’s been involved with the pandemic response but we are making progress.

Stay Healthy and Stay Safe, Keith Hurlbert, WEMA President

COVID-19 – Our Response & Recovery

April 5, 2020: On Friday April 3, I was asked to call an emergency meeting of the WEMA board to get consensus on supporting a letter from the WI DATCP to the USDA. This letter requested that the Federal Government begin purchasing surplus food commodities and re-open the Daily Margin Coverage program for farmers. Rather than trying to coordinate a meeting before the 3 p.m. deadline on Friday, I decided to poll the WEMA Board by email for their vote on endorsing the letter. The vote was unanimous in support of the endorsement. I sent that endorsement Friday afternoon. I thank the WEMA Board Members for their responsiveness to the email.

Many of us have been in full on Response Mode for 2 weeks now. Prior to that we were meeting with our Public Health partners to get a feel and understanding for what was coming. Now we are seeing it. There have been challenges that when first presented seemed impossible to overcome but with teamwork, collaborative thinking and an ability to adopt and move forward, many of those challenges have been met. Although there have been frustrations, there have been successes too. I too have been bitten by the stress of situation. Every day I tell myself to focus on the successes and work through the challenges. There is no such thing as failure but rather an alternative to our original thought. Be willing to bend, be empathetic to those who are struggling and just as important, be conscious of your own wellbeing. Emergency Managers are known for their tenacity and ingenuity. I encourage all of us to share our solutions and be tenacious and ingenious in doing so.

Keith Hurlbert, WEMA President

WEMA Representatives are on the following State Agency or Organization Committees/Work Groups

COMMITTEES

CERTIFIED EMERGENCY MANAGER PROGRAM

EPCRA ADVISORY

HOMELAND SECURITY FUNDING ADVISORY

GOVERNOR’S CONFERENCE PLANNING

STATE VOAD

WEM STRATEGIC PLANNING

PIPELINE EMERGENCY RESPONDER INITIATIVE

WORK GROUPS

EPCRA

COMPREHENSIVE RESPONSE

PLAN OF WORK

WICAMS – CREDENTIALING

COUNCILS

WISCONSIN LAND INFORMATION COUNCIL

WISCOM INTEROPERABILITY COUNCIL

OTHER ORGANIZATIONS

MABAS WI – COORDINATING OPERATIONS RESPONDING EFFECTIVELY (CORE)

WCA – JUDICIAL & PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE